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Archive for May, 2010

A Story of Spring

May 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Although Raul Castro’s government seems to move the domino through the Catholic Church, the Cuban authorities’ crackdown against alleged international media campaign looks more like a spring story to attract tourists than an ideological campaign against lurking enemies. As the architects of the onslaught take as a starting point the internal vertical structure, they would like us to believe that the world works in a way similar to the island press, accustomed to sweetening the pill of socialism by implementing the directives received from a central power.

Following this logic, any information about Cuba that is not apologetic, is classified as interference in internal affairs. So the news agencies, governments, parliaments, political parties and civic entities that criticize the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the repression against the Ladies in White, did not happen by their own free will but through the orders of and in response to payments from a mysterious office of the United States government.

It is not for reasons of State, but rather a pretext of the old men who rule the island, who forget that the world is interconnected and that new technologies democratize information. Repression has its political costs and impunity its limits. To monopolize the press the Cuban regime ignores or manipulates the internal events, but it can not prevent external repercussions.

The stories told by our media not only ignore the unemployment figures and the problems faced by schools and hospitals in the country, but let slip by political police agents’ dogged pursuit of human rights defenders, whom they sometimes mention in a disparaging tone.

Among the omitted news stories, for example, are the causes of widespread corruption, the arbitrary detention of peaceful opponents, beatings and suicides in prisons, the massive foreign debt owed by the government, the exodus of 2,000 physicians who moved from Venezuela to the United States, and the scheming of Cubans who travel to Ecuador, where thousands contract marriages so they won’t have to return to the island.

The government press reported no complaints filed by relatives of inmates with the Attorney General, the Supreme Court or the Ministry of Interior. Nor do they report on the health of hunger striker Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, who, since February 24, has been demanding the release of 26 political prisoners who are ill. Employees of our media did not interview any of the people who abstained from attending the People’s Power local elections.

But the list of exclusions is partially offset by foreign correspondents in Havana, mostly by alternative bloggers and independent journalists. As they write without permission they touch on prohibited subjects and break the information web woven through the press, radio and television, by the censors of the Communist Party’s Ideological Department.

More than a conspiracy to “discredit the Revolution and socialism,” there is a great deal of smoke, tantrums, and little summer stories through the tedious counteroffensive against the supposed international media campaign.

Problems in the Food Industry

May 24, 2010 Leave a comment

A company official from the Ministry of Food Industry, informs me that the tide against corruption that is shaking the foundations of the Cuban regime, affecting primarily the food-producing entities, where “even the fattest fishes are under suspicion.”

The source said Alejandro Roca Iglesias, who was minister for decades and who last year merged the Ministries of Food and Fisheries, is under investigation and spent two weeks behind bars at Cien y Aldabó, a special unit of the Technical Research Department, in Havana.

“Roca was untouchable until the scandal of Max Marambio and the other Chilean. The death of the foreign manager and the audits of Rio Zaza and related businesses uncovered missing and diverted millions from the time of Roca Iglesias, and intimate of Fidel Castro Ruz, who formerly consulted on his personal diet.”

He stated that almost all of the retinue of managers associated with Alejandro Roca, some in army, a number of retirees and others in related businesses and ministries, are being interrogated.

“One of the most illustrative cases is that of Juan Jose Ferro, a familiar vice-minister now located in the office of the Ministry of Economy and Planning. Despite his incompetence and despotism Ferro was director of the Meat Union and of the Oil and Fats Company, which he drove into the ground, leaving almost nothing.”

According to the source, the domino affect threatens the pyramid of directors of the Food and Fish Industry, as what is called The Collateral Law, “triggers a review of the top officials when there is any scandal in subordinate dependencies, as they didn’t take measures as required before the fact.”

“There are no factories, food processors or distributors without officials who steal or divert products, and on top of that are the ninjas who operate scam networks on the street with the custodians and managers, paid in advance to look the other way or to reject any complaints from the unions or workers.”

When I asked the employee if the new audit and enforcement measures would stop the corruption in the sector, he told me, “No, theft is a way of life, from the lowest worker to the director of the companies they go into it to skim off food or money. They don’t feel like they are owners nor do they feel guilty, they take whatever is within reach.”

That Republic (II)

May 22, 2010 Leave a comment

To evoke the anniversary of the Republic, the period between May 20, 1902 and January 31, 1958, it’s necessary to reconstruct the memory, manipulated by those who have been in power since 1959.

We remember that Cuba harvested less sugar in 2009-2010 than it did in 1905, while in 1958, according to Cerijo, we had 161 mills, with 75% (121) in the hands of Cubans, with a production of 5.6 million tons and 230,684,742 gallons of molasses, for domestic consumption and export.

In the first half of the 20th century there were advances in mining, although there were only 287 mines employing 25,000 workers, who mined 50 million pounds of nickel, and 4.5 million of cobalt. Metallurgy was in its infancy, but other factories demanded labor. In electrical energy, for example, Cuba ranked first in Latin America and 25th in the world, generating 11.8 megawatt hours annually per capita.

In this period, the island’s rail transport had one kilometer of track for every 8 square kilometers, with 18,059 km total, a first world level given the size of the country. The nation had 4,500 buses, 45,250 trucks, 140,297 private cars, one for every 27 inhabitants, equivalent to third in the hemisphere, as well as 6,000 km of roads.

The data communications sector also was significantly developed by 1958, with 191,500 telephones; 160 radio stations, 23 TV stations, 600 movie theaters, 58 daily newspapers and 126 weekly magazines, putting it between 1st and 3rd place in the region in these services. In tourism, total hotel capacity was 12,067 in 6,552 rooms, with 700,000 foreign tourists a year.

In areas such as education and public health, now cited to legitimize the Castro regime, the Republican period showed remarkable achievements in building hospitals and schools. In 1958 the island contained 8,900 primary schools, both public and private, 1,864 kindergarten classrooms, 240 upper primary schools, 171 institutes, 14 teachers colleges, 168 trade schools, 22 tech schools, 6 journalism academies and an equal number of fine arts and provincial agricultural schools, plus a forestry school, 12 surveying schools, and 15 institutions of higher education of which 3 were private.

Health care was private but there were emergency centers, clinics and mutual aid societies with affordable prices and costs assumed by the partners. The country had more than 6,500 doctors, 100 hospitals with one bed for every 170 inhabitants, first in Latin America. The infant mortality (37.6%) was the lowest in the region, although then, like now, there were diseases that afflicted the population, mainly in rural areas.

The statistics for the Republican past refute the lies written about that time. It was not a time of glory, but one of tensions, struggles and national restructuring. The society was transitioning under its own dynamics, without penalizing those who contradicted the discourse of the elites, whose gaps admitted the hardest working and most creative, given the existence of alternatives to alleviate the dissatisfaction of workers, students and other sectors, through unions and associations independent of the government.

That Republic (I)

May 21, 2010 Leave a comment

May 20 marked 108 years since the beginning of the Cuban Republic, inaugurated in the old Palace of the Captains General, not the Museum of Havana, as a result of the historical process that led to independence from colonial rule of Spain (1511 to 1898) and the military occupation of the United States (1899-1902). A nation that created by the triumph of the Liberation Army, took control of the country and issued a set of laws regarding education, governance and other areas of island life, which has changed drastically since 1959.

As the regulator of the nation, the republican system inherited the aftermath of the war, economic backwardness, the social and racial differences and problems such as corruption, warlordism and the absence of democratic traditions, which influenced the country’s zigzag marked by the dictatorships of Gerardo Machado (1925-1933) and Fulgencio Batista (1952-1958), although progress was made which placed Cuba among the leading nations of the continent.

Half a century after the dismantling of the Republic it’s worth delving into the statistics of the past; they shed some light on the problems of this island, plagued by decades of improvisation, top-down politics, ideological indoctrination, external dependence, social indolence and corruption.

The summary of data compiled by Dr. Manuel Cereijo shows the evolution of land use, crop division, the occupation of farms (159,958, with an area of 676,390 acres), industry (33,384 factories) and commerce ( 65,872), the labor force (1,214,770 workers) and the size of the economy in 1958, when the reserves of gold and convertible securities amounted to 373 million, the third in Latin America, while per capita income (520) and the Country’s budget (400,000,000) led the region.

The figures are impressive when compared with the population of the time (6 million) and subsequent involution of production, when the population is almost double and two million live in exile. The decline in crops, cattle and milk and the drop in the average annual wage endorse and confirm the need to re-liberate the productive forces and encourage private initiative.

The Cuba of 1958 had 6 million head of cattle and earned 1,200,000 from the export of meat, produced 980 million liters of milk and had 7 milk canneries and 55 butter and cheese plants. Rice production amounted to 181,200 metric tons, covering 55% of the domestic market, followed closely by maize, chickpeas, meats and fruits, while planting and processing of coffee (136 million pounds) and tobacco ( Raw 91.5 million pounds) exceeded current, production. Along with the consumption of chicken, eggs and fish, daily calories averaged 2,800 per person, second in the region. The farm worker was the second highest paid in Latin America and seventh in the world.

Gift or Punishment?

May 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Sunday, May 9, Yoani Sánchez, author of the Blog Generation Y, communicated to some friends via Twitter the following information.

“I have received a huge gift for the Mother’s Day celebration, a police citation to appear in the Fourth Station tomorrow.”

Yoani Sanchez is the most celebrated blogger in Cuba, but she has not been distinguished by the official media of the Island, in spite of the international awards she has received and her contribution to the new technologies. Her blog, a divine virtual tribune, unleashed hatred and persecution against her person.

Since she received the “Ortega y Gasset” journalism prize, State Security Agents watch her home. On November 7, 2009, she was kidnapped and beaten in a Vedado street by three police officers. The deed was repeated at the end of February, when she was on her way to sign a book of condolence for the death of the political prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

To silence the criticisms from the young writer, the government combines political persecution with an Internet campaign against her. They try to disqualify her through siege, rumors, and slander in the official press. In the academic and cultural government institutions, with Internet access, they hold meetings against her, while the main communication media of the regime reproduce a romanced biography that distorts her contribution to citizen’s journalism

The citation of last Sunday arrived at her home while she celebrated with her parents, son and husband the Mother’s Day holiday, one of the most sacred days of the Cuban culture. On two previous occasions, she has been cited with the intent to intimidate her. The Immigration authorities have denied, four times, her travel permission requests to attend academic events and to pick up her international awards.

Yoani Sanchez earned her celebrity status because of the excellence and concision in the post she writes on Generation Y, which is read and commented on by millions. Her fame also comes from her initiative to grow the island’s blogosphere, known as the Blogger Journey, for creation of the platform Cuban Voices, plus the creation of the First Blogger Academy in Cuba, and for the proposal in favor of dialogue and the tolerance as a way to solve the problems of the country.

The recent police citation against the signature Blogger of our island is another attempt to extinguish the voices of those who assume freedom to speak and write without censorship and without political mandates. It was truly another attempt at punishment because the police later made up an excuse to postpone the citation. In the end, it is a threat of a possible punishment.

Translated by: Mari Mesa Contreras

Martyrs of Defiance

May 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Prisons crown the dead zone of the Cuban reality, where the omission of information is an accomplice to forgetfulness. Sorting through the official defenses of Castro’s repressive stage machinery helps us discover the swamp flowers of the island prison. The letters and testimonials illuminate the names of 12 political prisoners who died between 1966 and 2010, as a consequence of hunger strikes against the impunity of the guards.

Cuba Archive has posted data on the internet about those who challenged torture, forced labor, malnutrition and lack of medical care. Among these martyrs against laziness, stubbornness, intransigence and cruelty, three died in the Castillo del Príncipe prison in Havana, one in the Isle of Pines prison, one in Pinar del Río , two in Pretesando prison and one in Manacas prison in Las Villas, one in Kilo 7 (Camagüey), 1 in Boniato (Santiago de Cuba) and two in other prisons in the capital.

The hunger strikers who were killed by starvation in the prisons of the Castro regime ranged between the ages of 25 and 45. The first was Roberto López Chávez, who died on November 12, 1966, after 70 days of protest against the beatings by guards, who denied him even water. In September 1967 Luis Alvarez Rios and Francisco Aguirre  Vidaurreta gave their lives.  The list includes Carmelo Mesa Hernandez, on July 29, 1969, Pedro Luis Boitel in 1972 and Olegario Charlot Spileta and Enrique García Cuevas, in January and May 1973.

Pedro Luis Boitel, who died on May 25, 1972 in the depths of Principe prison was the best known before Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who was transferred from Camaguey to Combinado del Este (Havana) in February 2010. The Martyrdom of Boitel lasted 53 days, the  agony of Zapata was extended for 82 days. Both are symbols of rebellion.

The torture continues with Reinaldo Cordero Izquierdo, 21 May 1975 in a prison of Pinar del Rio, where he  demanded his release after a decade of confinement.  Two years later, on September 22, 1977, the inmates of Pretensado were witnesses to the death of Pedro Jose Barrios.

On August 9, 1985, while fasting in Kilo 7, cardiac arrest ended the anguish of Santiago Roche Valle, 45, who is now reborn from oblivion, just like Nicolás González Regueiro, who died in a cell in Manacas, on the 16th of  September 1992, after four years in prison for “distributing enemy propaganda.”

The documents record hundreds of hunger strikers in half a century of dictatorship, but only 12 died of hunger due to the negligence of the guards. The silence of the press confirms the responsibility of the military government, which in the name of the revolutionary utopia justifies the disregard for life.

There is still no monument to perpetuate the memory of these martyrs of personal challenge. Hopefully, they will be the last, although Guillermo Farinas has been on a hunger strike for two months seeking the release of 26 ill prisoners of conscience.

Translated by ricote

Among the Media Campaigns

May 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Since late February, when the press, some governments, and several institutions and personalities in the world condemned the Cuban regime for the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and other human rights violations, the Island’s leaders, instead of solving the problem, saw the critics as an international conspiracy and replied with a media campaign to misinform and manipulate the citizens of the country, whom they call on to defend the injustice.

Accustomed to doing what they please and scheduling economic, political and advertising campaigns of all kinds, the Castro-ite ideologues take cover in the lie and use the mass media to throw up a smokescreen while the storm passes. Unable to understand reality, they face new problems with old methods.

2010 began with the ideological campaign over the disaster in Haiti, which exaggerates the Cuban contribution and minimizes that offered by developed nations. Between January and April the media alternated news of the neighboring catastrophe with electoral constituencies in the country, and legitimizing process of exclusion. There were also headlines of hatred against the United States, Israel and Europe, and gilded pills about allies such as Brazil, China and Venezuela, without neglecting the advocacy of the “wonderful Cuban health system.”

Among so many campaigns Cubans are denied access to information, free expression of their desires, the right to live outside the state and, and other freedoms that feed the soul and body. Behind the call to rant against the nations that denounce the abuse of an inefficient and repressive government, hides the contempt for the nation that they run as a military camp, and the determination to continue to exercise a political, economic, and cultural monopoly.

He who accuses, excuses himself and hides his misdeeds. The Castro regime’s disinformation machinery greased back its old arguments to act with impunity. To reiterate the “revolutionary slogans,” disqualify those who express other views and demonize the peaceful opposition, is to chant the media indoctrination that ensures the simulation and opportunism that are needed to move the masses like zombies after the official discourse.

The ideological counteroffensive to the international denunciations renewed trenches of fear that lead to silence. Repression marches parallel to slander. They reach the point of assaulting on a public street defenseless women, which demoralizes the authorities, bereft of arguments to continue in power.

If no one can disagree, and all citizen action is part of an international conspiracy, it’s time that government wise men solve problems created during half a century of slogans, undertakings, and failed alliances. To govern is not to ban, to excommunicate, and to manufacture hate campaigns. It is to stick to reality and seek alternatives. They could begin by freeing political prisoners and institutionalizing the opposition.